So Perfect, They Had to Die…

You’ve seen their shells in science textbooks, design magazines, and haggard hotel wall art, quite soon those might be the only places you’ll find one of nature’s most mathematically pleasing marvels, the nautilus. Their iconic image, made famous by their shell’s alignment with Fibonnaci’s sequence for determining the Golden Ratio, has also made them a target for humanity’s hunger for novelty. Having survived previous eras of mass extinction, it looks like in our design conscious world the nautilous might be marked for death by its perfection:

Nautilus, Golden Ratio“Nautilus’s ability, using the hydraulic system at the heart of the shell, to sink down to ocean depths of several hundred feet and lay eggs there, made these sea creatures immune to all the chaos that was going on at the surface in earlier extinctions. They could slow down their metabolism and just hibernate through whatever was going on above.

But they can’t cope with the fishermen who lure them into baited nets in the waters of the Philippines, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Fiji and Samoa. So they’re now on the edge of extinction, and whereas fishermen used to be able to catch hundreds of them a day, they now catch just one or two.

Worse, rather than catching the younger ones, many of whom would not make it to adulthood anyway, the fishermen catch the larger adults, who are already survivors and have the greatest chance of being able to breed. But the market wants those big shells. And nature has not prepared the Nautilus for the market.

The final insult may be that the industry is fueling rumors that Nautilus can make fabulous pearls, and fake “Nautilus pearls” are being made from the shells to meet the new demand.

Those shells are a marvelous example of the Golden Ratio or Fibonacci sequence of numbers, where each number in the series is the sum of the two previous ones: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. There are various slightly different versions of this in nature, but the essence of the series can be seen in the shape of spiral arm galaxies, in the heart of sunflowers and the swirl of hurricanes, and in shells like the Nautilus.”

15 Comments on "So Perfect, They Had to Die…"

  1. The Baffler | Aug 5, 2012 at 3:49 pm |

    Free Market solutions!

  2. The waters belong to Us all, I feel some of us should start acting like it and stand up for those things that we can not yet understand.

  3. Go to hell, Market!

  4. zombieslapper | Aug 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm |

    I hope humans die out first.

  5. Naisivad | Aug 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    Just a bit of trivia. Although the spiral pattern of the Nautilus follows a logarithmic ratio it doesn’t actually follow the golden ratio. It’s one of those stubborn non-facts that keeps persisting. 

    • chinagreenelvis | Aug 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm |

      Although I’m inclined to side with the conclusion, it must be noted that the author was using photographs of shells. Photographs are almost always victims of distortion, and rarely can be used to measure subject matter accurately without known point of reference data.

  6. <  fishermen used to be able to catch hundreds of them a day, they now catch just one or two

    the Nautilus isn't the only sea creature suffering this fate of extinction
    99% of the fish in the sea are headed in the same direction

    • Anarchy Pony | Aug 5, 2012 at 8:53 pm |

      Add in ocean acidification and you got a recipe for complete annihilation.

      •  if you have ever tried to annihilate something
        (like spider mites or fungus gnats)
        you’ll realize that it takes a lot of diligent effort 
        to totally annihilate living beings

        so it is even more astounding that humans
        are in the process of annihilation sea life
        without any thought whatsoever

    • Monkey See Monkey Do | Aug 6, 2012 at 6:47 am |

      But fish taste too good, right? Sometimes I think we deserve to perish with the earth we are destroying…..but then I come to my senses.

      • we will perish with the species we are destroying
        a kind of just recompense
        but the Earth will continue on its merry way without us
        it barely knows we’re here
        and it won’t miss us in the least when we’re gone

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Aug 6, 2012 at 8:15 am |

          The earth will definetley continue on its merry way without us. But I question that it barely knows we’re here, we barely know it’s there.

          • the earth is estimated to be 4.56 billion years old
            and humans have erect for about 1 million years
            most human damage has occurred in the last 500 years
            for the Earth
            it would be you like having a cold for a few seconds

            but yes, humans lost touch with their Mother Earth
            after being hypnotized by technology

  7. I’m OK with banning catching these animals for however long it takes to bring numbers up and then heavily regulate catching them, penalties including the death penalty for poachers. Murder poachers.

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